The first conference of Scottish Tourism Month 2018 took place today (Friday 9 March) at Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

The SkyeConnect meeting offered an insight into what the organisation aims to do, enabled the audience to hear from the Council and discuss plans for the future.

Speakers, such as Shirley Spear, Councillor John Gordon and representatives from NFU and various local community groups, kept the audience up to date on topics such as marine tourism, local food production and the roll out of free WiFi in Portree.

The meeting was opened by Professor Boyd Robertson, the principal of Sabhal Mor Ostaig.  Professor Robertson then handed over to Shirley Spear of SkyeConnect, who gave the audience more details about SkyeConnect and its aims.

Shirley noted that one organisation could not tackle all the work needed on the island, but that SkyeConnect aims to link various organisations under one umbrella and to work towards making beneficial changes.

Councillor John Gordon announced free WiFi would be rolling out in Portree within the coming weeks.  

He also went on to discuss a trial park and ride scheme to take the pressure off areas such as the Fairy Glen.  

The audience also heard from Rob Mackinnon on Outer Hebrides tourism.  

After the initial talks, three breakout sessions were held at the same time. 

Duncan Macinnes of SEALL spoke to the audience on how cultural events are of benefit to everyone.  Gabrielle Blackburn of VisitScotland addressed her audience on the opportunities of Inclusive Tourism.

Gordon and Anne Willoughby revealed details on an app built by their son.  Entitled Explore Skye, the app is currently aimed at locals, as well as tourists, and contains details of walkways, activities, ferries and other useful information.

Trish Rodgers from Broadford and Strath Community Company shared updates on what the organisation has been doing lately.  One of the company's most ambitious projects included the creation of a new community-owned campsite.  Complete with 26 vehicle pitches and 49 tent pitches, the project is well under way.  

Ian Mackay addressed the audience on Marine tourism, defined as recreational activities away from home with water as the focus.

The collaboration of coastal communities will stretch from the Canaries in the south to Shetland in the north.  It was revealed that Skye would be involved in the industry-lead initiative.  At this stage, however, possibilities are still being explored.

It was revealed that marine tourism delivers £360 million, in figures obtained in 2014, whilst boating delivers £101 million in figures taken from 2010.  

Alistair Danter, Project Manager of SkyeConnect, gave the final talk.  He identified three key areas to success, such as keeping up to date with what is happening inside and outside of the tourism industry.  He stressed the need to be aware of new technology.  Acknowledging that everyone has different ideas, he suggested "really good shock absorbers" were required to prevent organisations collapsing due to disagreement.  Finally, he said there had to be a glue to keep everyone together and that he couldn't think of a better glue in the world than Skye!